The tragic family history of the Kennedys

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Updated November 25, 2020, 8:03 p.m.

On November 25, John F. Kennedy, Jr. would have turned 60. He was killed in a plane crash in 1999. Tragedies have struck the Kennedys like no other family. That is the sad family story. © 1&1 Mail & Media/spot on news



John F. Kennedy, Jr. (left) was the third child of former US President John F. Kennedy (right) and his wife Jackie. Early on he had to struggle with blows of fate. His older sister Arabella was stillborn and his younger brother Patrick died just two days after he was born.
© imago images/ZUMA Press


A little later, John F. Kennedy, Jr. had to say goodbye to his father. The funeral of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America, took place on the day of his third birthday. On a campaign trip in November 1963, he was the victim of an assassination attempt in which he was shot.
© imago images / United Archives International / Topfoto


Kennedy was US President only from 1961 to 1963, but major historical events such as the height of the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the construction of the Berlin Wall fell during his term of office. During his visit to West Berlin in 1963, he said the famous sentence: “I am a Berliner.”
© imago images/Sven Simon


John F. Kennedy was murdered on November 22, 1963 while driving an open car through Dallas. At the funeral three days later, it is estimated that around a million people attended.
© imago images / United Archives International / Topfoto


Three-year-old John F. Kennedy, Jr. bid farewell to his father with a special gesture: he saluted in front of the coffin. The photographer Stan Stearns captured the moment with his camera and the picture then went around the world.
© imago images/Courtesy Everett Collection


A year later, Edward Kennedy (here with his first wife Joan), JFK’s youngest brother, was lucky. He narrowly escaped death in a plane crash. Five years later he caused a car accident in which he again barely survived. Edward Kennedy, who was a US Senator in Massachusetts for 47 years, died of cancer in 2009 and was 77 years old.
© imago images/ZUMA Press


The next death in the family occurred when John F. Kennedy, Jr. was seven years old. His uncle Robert F. Kennedy ran for the presidency in 1968. In an acceptance speech after winning the pre-election in California (picture), he was also assassinated, similar to his brother. Shortly after his speech, he was shot in a hotel in Los Angeles, seriously injured, and died a short time later in hospital.
© imago images / United Archives International


Robert Francis Kennedy, often simply called “Bobby” by the Americans, was a Senator from New York. His death paralyzed the country. He didn’t have the charm of his brother, but he always showed his dogged intensity at work. He was Minister of Justice under JFK.
© imago images/United Archives International


In 1984 Robert F. Kennedy’s son David A. Kennedy died. He was the fourth of Robert Kennedy’s eleven children. David died at the age of 28 from a drug overdose consisting of cocaine, demerol and mellaril.
© picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PR /AP-Photo/dck/-undated-)


Despite the many blows of fate in his family, the life of JFK Jr. was crowned with success: he became a lawyer and worked for the New York Public Prosecutor’s Office until 1993. In 1988 he was also given a special honor: “People” magazine named him “Sexiest Man Alive”.
© imago images / Danita Delimont / Dennis Brack


Another blow of fate befell JFK Jr. when his mother Jackie died in May 1994. She was previously diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Jackie O., as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was called during her second marriage to shipowner Aristotle Onassis, was 64 years old.
© imago images / ZUMA Press


After Jackie O.’s death, John F. Kennedy, Jr. (here with TV presenter Jay Leno) changed his career and became the editor of a political magazine. The magazine, titled “George”, was not particularly successful, however.
© imago images/NBC/Courtesy Everett Collection


In 1997 another son of Robert F. Kennedy died. Michael LeMoyne Kennedy (pictured with his mother Ethel) was killed in a skiing accident. Previously, he made headlines for having an affair with an underage babysitter of his children.
© picture-alliance / dpa/ Mulhauser


On July 16, 1999, John F. Kennedy, Jr. was out with his wife, Carolyn, and their sister, Lauren, for his cousin Rory Kennedy’s wedding. He drove the plane from New Jersey to Massachusetts, but the Piper Saratoga crashed shortly before the island of Martha’s Vineyard. All three inmates were killed.
© imago images/ZUMA Press


The three found their final resting place in the sea: on July 22, they were buried at sea after a ceremony aboard the ship USS Briscoe. JFK Jr. thus suffered an early death similar to that of his father. John-John died at the age of 38 and JFK was 46 years old.
© Stephen Rose/Getty Images


Another misfortune occurred in the Kennedy family in 2019: Saoirse Kennedy Hill, the granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy, died at the age of 22. Saoirse was the daughter of Courtney Kennedy Hill, one of eleven children of Robert F. Kennedy, and his wife, human rights activist Ethel Kennedy (pictured). “The world is a little bit less beautiful today. It lit up our lives with her love, her roaring laughter and her generous manner,” said Ethel.
© imago images/UPI Photo


A few months later, the cause of death was known. Saoirse Kennedy Hill died of an accidentally ingested overdose. She had a deadly mix of methadone, alcohol, and various prescription drugs in her blood. Family and friends mourned the 22-year-old at her funeral.
© picture alliance/AP Photo/David L Ryan/The Boston Globe via AP, Pool


Then in 2020 the next tragedy: Another granddaughter of John F. Kennedy was killed. Maeve Kennedy McKean drowned in a canoe accident with her son. She was only 40 years old, her son Gideon eight years old. The two allegedly wanted to use a canoe to pull an aborted ball out of the water and never returned to their house on the bank.
© Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights


Caroline Kennedy is the only child of John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacky still alive today. The author and diplomat has been married since 1986 and has three children, Rose, Tatiana and John.
© imago images/AFLO


John Bouvier Kennedy “Jack” Schlossberg, as Caroline Kennedy’s son is full name, is the only remaining male descendant and grandson of the legendary President JFK. He is following in the footsteps of his famous uncle John F. Kennedy, Jr. The two not only look very similar, Jack is also drawn in the same professional direction: He is studying at Harvard Law School.
© imago images/MediaPunch



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